James McMurtry, the Austin singer-songwriter, is generally regarded as a political force. His George W. Bush-era rant “We Can’t Make It Here” was a Camp Casey classic. But on his new album out Tuesday, Complicated Game, McMurtry trades in the electric guitar for the acoustic and his gritty murmur for delicate enunciation to create a batch of mostly tender songs about the people and places he’s encountered while touring.
This is a song about fictional people who used to farm near a place I used to fish,” James McMurtry says from the stage before launching into “Deaver’s Crossing,” a track off Complicated Game, his first studio album in nearly seven years. It’s a head-scratching bit of banter, which is not surprising coming from a songwriter whose lyrics lean more toward the imaginative than the confessional.
From the moment in 1986 when the idea to hold a music conference in Austin was first broached, Roland Swenson has been a part of SXSW—initially to convince people that it wasn’t a crazy idea, and then to make it happen. In the years since, he has overseen a trajectory of growth that has included the launches of SXSW Interactive, SXSW Film, SXSW Edu, SXSW Eco, and the V2V entrepreneurial conference.
Is there an instrument as iconic as Trigger? Willie Nelson’s beat-to-hell Martin classical acoustic guitar is known around the world by name, and its acoustic resonance is as familiar, in its way, as Nelson’s thin, reedy voice.
Sometimes Hayden Pedigo really hates Amarillo. Nothing much happens here: it’s flat and it smells and it’s full of cowboys who dip snuff and drive huge pickups and listen to bad country music. No one understands the music he makes—the intricate fingerpicking on acoustic guitar and the long, ambient dreamscapes on electric guitar and synthesizer, sometimes using sounds he records in his apartment and around town.